The second area of the Webb-Andronichuk proposal up for discussion is perhaps the most controversial section of the proposal, it describes the supporters base and internal party structure.
Membership & supporters
At present, an individual can sign up to become a member of the party by paying £10 or £15 membership subscription. This gives them the ability to attend and vote at Conferences. It also allows them the opportunity to stand for election to the NCC, and also stand at a council or national election under the Libertarian Party banner.
However, more should be done to encourage Supporters to get on board. When he was a councillor, the author had represented residents of wards ranging in size from 1,500 properties to 6,500 properties. To deliver leaflets to these wards would obviously be time consuming, so it was important to get supporters on board.
Supporters are not party members, but they eventually might be. They would help deliver leaflets – say 200-250 each – which helps lighten the load. At one point, the author when representing a ward of around 6,000 properties had eighteen supporters who were prepared to deliver leaflets in his ward; that’s as many as 4,500 leaflets from a 6,000 run that the author didn’t have to deliver himself. What’s more, most were not members of his political party, and some were in fact supporters – at the national level – of other political parties. They were happy with the work that the author was doing in their community and wanted to offer their support. There are other benefits of having a supporter network in place.
Skills and experience is one, for example, a supporter might be a teacher who can give advice on education related matters. Receiving donations is another – it costs money to produce leaflets throughout the year. Community is another – there is nothing better than a dozen or so people getting together, supporting a local pub or restaurant, to have a good time.
The author doesn’t agree with the notion of dual-membership. If an individual wishes to have voting rights, they should become a full member of the party. However, there should be some provision to allow for individuals to become Associate Members if they wish.
Associate Members would be required to pay the same subscription as full members to illustrate their support. This would give them all of the same rights as a full member except that they will not have any voting rights, they wouldn’t be permitted to seek election to party committee positions at the UK or local levels, and nor would they be permitted to stand as Libertarian Party candidates at elections. They would of course be excluded from ‘sensitive’ meeting, for example, pertaining to election strategy. Supporters of the party would of course be free to donate and support the party how they saw fit, be invited to socials, and could even offer advice, but there will no membership rights.
The full membership subscription should remain in place as this rightly illustrates commitment to the party and helps fund the day-to-day running of the party, and if funds allow, campaigns and candidates.
On one final note regarding membership, the party should introduce membership cards. Such a card would show the membership status of the individual (full or associate), their membership renewal date, their membership number, and perhaps even the Region or Local Authority they’re in.
Devolution of responsibilities
Under these proposals, there is still an element of central direction from the UK party. However, many of the functions that currently fall within the remit of the UK party could be devolved to legally responsible local parties – or Accounting Units. It is proposed the party adopts a federal structure, giving greater autonomy and responsibility to local groups. Applications to the NCC to become a local accounting unit will be determined on the basis that the given local area had ten members, and the basis of a committee, notably a Chair, Secretary and Treasurer.
The diagram on the next page is not meant to show a hierarchy; nor is it meant to illustrate an authoritarian, ‘Führer principle’ approach. It shows how the UK party and local parties can work in partnership, with some responsibilities resting with the NCC, and others resting with the local parties.
It also shows how devolution of grassroots functions will allow the NCC to reduce its membership to five, those being: Leader, Chair, Treasurer, Campaigns & Communication, and Policy. The one caveat is regards the post of Campaigns and Communications. It is possible that this post could be split into two roles, but this can be reviewed at a later date.
It is proposed there is still an element of central direction in the following areas:
- The local party constitution that governs the conduct of all new formal local Accounting Units will be drawn up by the NCC, having consulted the membership; and this will come into force after being ratified by a meeting of the Conference.
- Candidate selection rules for selecting candidates at the local authority level will be drawn up by the NCC, having consulted the membership, and this will come into force after being ratified by a meeting of the Conference.
- Procedures to submit policy motions to Conferences for consideration and the vote of the members as a whole.
- Oversight of Accounting Units to ensure they are dealing with their financial responsibilities in accordance with legislation. The primary officer charged with this role will be the NCC Treasurer.
The NCC will take on a more enabling and supporting role to the local parties, but ultimately, the NCC – and in particular the Leader and Chair – will be responsible for oversight on how well the party is functioning and performing. It may be appropriate for other functions to be dealt with at the NCC level in addition to the four bullet points above with a view to creating consistency across the board to enable local parties to function well and within the law.